Have you ever taken a moment to examine the consequences of negative thinking? Unfortunately, some research indicates that the overwhelming majority of our thought cycles are negative. And such thoughts have a greater emotional and physical impact on us than the positive ones.
Why does that happen? Well, our brains have just evolved that way. When we have a negative thought, we jump on it. On some level, negative thoughts send a signal that something is wrong. When we have nice thoughts, they can pass easily, because all is well. The brain doesn’t feel the need to cling to it.
While some negativity is normal and natural, bad thoughts can spell even worse news for some of us. Letting them proliferate can increase our risk of suffering from anxiety, depression, panic, and mood swings. And in general, it’s just terrible for our self-esteem.
But asking one question (and a few more after that, if you like) can help us prevent this.
Is it true?
The Work, authored by Byron Katie, is intended to help alleviate suffering. It helps us address a negative judgment we make simply by asking, “Is it true?”
Over time, questioning the validity of the harsh, unpleasant thoughts can keep them from growing. It can also help us minimize the reaction our brains have to them.
For example, how many times a week do you think to yourself, “I’m so bad at this”? No matter what task it is, this can lead to a barely-conscious chain of thoughts concerning all types of skills and qualities you lack.
Ultimately, this hurts your confidence and diminishes your willingness to take risks and go after things you want.
But NOT if you challenge that thought in short order.
If you look closer, you may find that you’re not bad at that task at all. You’re just learning, or there are external circumstances preventing you from doing your best. This much more forgiving line of thinking softens that negative angle, giving you room to grow.
Wait, what if it IS true?
We can take this a bit further. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary to continue questioning the thought if you still think it’s true. Next up, Katie encourages us to ask something to the effect of, “Can you know that it’s absolutely true?”
When we ask this, we may see that the idea of being “bad” at something can be subjective. It’s the same as when we pick apart our appearance and judge ourselves as “ugly” or “plain”. We can’t say that’s an absolute truth, because we know someone out there can easily consider us the pinnacle of beauty!
From there, wrap things up with two more carefully considered questions. Next, ask yourself how believing that negative thought impacts you. For instance, if you think you’re bad at something, you may not try anymore. That might prevent you from learning something new, or accepting an opportunity.
Finally, ask, “Who would I be without that thought?” For one, you might feel better about yourself. You might give yourself a chance to develop skills, or appreciate something new or interesting about yourself.
Self-compassion is an absolute must for anyone looking to raise their level of consciousness, so we’re definitely on board with Katie’s questions. Now tell us - what negative thoughts are you challenging today? How do you think resolving that thought will impact your anxiety and stress levels? Let us know in the comments!